Champagne Hasn’t Always Been Bubbly

“I only drink champagne when I’m happy, or when I’m sad. I sometimes drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.”

—Elizabeth (Lily) Bollinger

Champagne—the frothy, celebratory drink of weddings, anniversaries, triumphant accomplishments, ship launchings, and the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve—didn’t start out bubbly.

In fact, Dom Pierre Pérignon, the 17th-century Benedictine monk whose name is now synonymous with champagne, spent most of his long wine-making career attempting to ensure that his wine was bubble-free. Chances are ...

My Monthly Subscription to Fresh Food

By Maggie Kierstead, The George Washington University

Each week it’s like Christmas. I walk the three blocks from my dorm room to the pick-up location, and there waiting for me is a beautiful white box labeled ‘vegetables’ bursting with just that: freshly harvested, dirty, organic vegetables, smelling freshly of earth.

This fall is my first season as part of a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which makes me one of a group of people in my area who have committed to receiving produce from a small co-op of farms located about 100 miles away from me in Lancaster, PA.

At this time of year, I get anything ...

What’s Best for Baby’s Tummy? The History of Baby Food

Most parents—whether for sentimental reasons or hopes of future blackmail—have pictures of their babies with tomato sauce in their hair, clutching handfuls of spaghetti, or diving goo-ily into a one-candled birthday cake.

The food disaster photo is a standard feature of babyhood. It’s also, it turns out, pretty much emblematic of the way we’re now supposed to encourage babies to eat. Known as “baby-led weaning,” this practice holds that feeding babies—once they’re old enough to chew—is an activity best left to the babies themselves. And it’s all about fingers, rather than spoons and commercial baby food. 2

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Cheers: Celebration Drinking Is an Ancient Tradition

No one knows exactly when alcohol first entered the human diet—chances are it was a serendipitous prehistoric stumble on fermented fruit—but clearly we took to it like ducks to water.

Excavations of the Neolithic settlement Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands turned up 30-gallon pottery jars, the dregs of which—analyzed—turned out to contain an alcoholic brew made from barley and oats, flavored with meadowsweet and topped off with a hallucinogenic handful of deadly nightshade, henbane, and hemlock. (more…)

The Best Christmas Gift: The Freedom to Eat What You Want

If you celebrate Christmas, it’s possible your stomach will hurt by the end of the day.

Over-indulgence isn’t the reason for the season, but it is a crucial part of it. The enshrining of a hunk of protein is central to the feast: a ham, a roast of beef, the goose that is all the poor Cratchits of A Christmas Carol can afford before Scrooge’s change of heart, or the “prize turkey” that he sends them when he wakes up and discovers it is still Christmas Day.

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Why Empty Calories Are a Big Problem

Not all foods are created equal. Some foods, in fact, from a nutritionist’s point of view, barely count as foods at all.

Among these are doughnuts, pizza, ice cream, candy, soda pop, chips, chocolate pudding, and bacon—as well as beer, wine, and any other conceivable form of booze.

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What Are Sugar Plums Anyway?

Nowadays we’re all familiar with Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas”—a.k.a. “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” It was supposedly written on an actual snowy night before Christmas, while Moore was traveling through Greenwich Village by sleigh, and first published (anonymously) in 1823.

From it, we’ve gleaned a lasting picture of Santa Claus (nose like a cherry, white beard, round belly), developed maddening memory glitches over the names of those eight tiny reindeer, and puzzled over the children tucked in their beds, having visions of sugar plums. Most of us, it turns out, are pretty vague about those sugar plums. 3

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The Ramen Noodle Diet: Not Just for College Students

By Diana Wilkinson, The George Washington University

Whenever my mom tells stories about her life as a young working professional, she typically reminisces about her first job, her first apartment, and how she lived off meals like packaged ramen noodles.

I realized I had come to a similar point in my life as I carefully stacked about 30 packages of ramen noodles on top of my fridge. Instant ramen noodles still give young people (including me) a quick, easy and moderately tasty meal for a very low cost. A 12-pack of beef-flavored Maruchan Ramen is just under $2.25. That’s potentially 12 meals for just 19 cents each. While they may ...

Don’t Blame the Fruitcake, Blame the Recipe

“Oh, my, it’s fruitcake weather.”

—Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

My all-time favorite Christmas card features an illustration by Edward Gorey in which assorted Victorians, in long coats and furry hats, gather to pitch a fruitcake through a hole in the ice. This is, frankly, just what most of us are tempted to do with fruitcake. (more…)

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